The Birthday Gift

garden-maze

photo copyright Melanie Greenwood

In my dream I am alone in a garden labyrinth. “If I could give you a gift today,” I whisper, “I would finish those drafts I let you read, get my stories out into the world.” I take a shaky breath. “But I’m scared. My books–and my life–are such a mess.”

In her later years she delighted in bawdy language. I hear faint snickering, then her voice from a distance, quoting the handwritten note to herself I found on her writing desk. “This story is not going to unfuck itself!”

“Too true.” I give up and laugh. “Happy birthday, Mama.”


This lovely photo of a garden arrived just in time for February 4th, which was my mother’s birthday…and the first thing I thought of was how much she enjoyed visiting the local botanic garden. I admit the memories made me sad, since she’s been gone almost three years now. I envisioned myself there again with her, was probably about to write something maudlin–and then suddenly I got a dose of motherly advice. She was not one to put up with weepy self-pity.  🙂

Though she had been a rather formal person most of her life, in her last years my mother developed a love of vulgar language because she found it so “juicy and expressive.” She adored the author Chuck Wendig, and because she was a writer herself she read his blog every day, relishing his writing advice. After her death I found a yellow post-it note, written in her tidiest printing, on her desk. It says simply: “This story is not going to unfuck itself!” which is a quote from Chuck’s blog. I keep that post-it in a silver frame now, and every time I see it, I can hear her laughing at me…gently reminding me (the way some mothers do, no matter what) to get off my ass and get to work.

How funny. It’s her birthday, but I’m the one who got a gift. 😉

Find more Friday Fictioneers flash fiction for this week here.

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34 responses to “The Birthday Gift

    • Thank you. 🙂 She was incredible–able to look on the bright side no matter how hard life got, always making people laugh. She was still telling jokes during her last few good days…some of them quite naughty. 😉

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  1. What a lovely story – the ‘fiction’ one and the real one, actually, so I suppose I mean what lovely stories. Profanity is so easily overused but there are times and placed where it really can be the answer. I suspect your Mum found one of those in this post-it. And it sounds like good advice to most of us in the writing game!

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  2. Oh Patricia, What an absolutely beautiful tribute to your mother! You loved her so and I’m sure she loved you. I like her feisty attitude toward life! Lucky you! I miss my mother so very much too (she died in 1990). I think she is still encouraging you with her words of wisdom and you are wise to listen! Bless you! Nan 🙂

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    • Thank you for your kind words, Nan. 🙂 My mom was feisty, and fought hard to keep a good attitude to the end (she died after a very long illness). She would not have approved of the kind of tribute this week’s prompt brought to my mind at first glance, but her memory–and her post-it note–inspired me to go in another direction.

      I’m sorry for the loss of your mother. That’s a pain which never truly goes away.

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    • Thank you. 🙂 My mom loved to repeat that quote from Chuck Wendig to me–it was her shorthand for a whole laundry list of reasons why I ought to stop complaining and start editing. It’s still a good weapon against procrastination. Oh my gosh, procrastination…the very state where I live…until my mom and Chuck Wendig show up, that is! 😀

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  3. Poignant, beautiful and meaningful. Thank you for sharing your mother. Swearing is therapy. I swear like a sailor in the house – whole streams until my breath and frustration run out. Then I can calmly and logically deal with the situation. 🙂

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